In 2001 the United States attacked Afghanistan with the aim of removing the Taliban from power and destroying a base for militant Islamic terrorism (specifically, Al Qaeda, which had its own roots in the CIA funded and trained Afghan Mujahadeen).
The Taliban were equipped mainly with obsolete weaponry dating back to the Soviet/Afghan war of the 1980s and did not stand a chance.
In recent years the US has been slowly drawing down their forces based in Afghanistan, as improvements in the security situation and the ability of local Afghan forces to ‘stand up’ allow.
Even the NZ SAS has had a hand in Afghanistan combat operations.
Now, only 9,800 American troops remain in the country, well down on the peak of almost one hundred thousand troops during the “surge” of 2010.
Although the Americans are slowly extricating themselves from Afghanistan, life for the ordinary Afghan person is as dangerous than ever:
The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan in 2015 was the highest in the last seven years amid increased fighting between pro-government forces and insurgent groups, including the Taliban, the United Nations said in its annual report.
According to the UN’s 2015 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, the total number of civilian casualties recorded in the last year amounted to more than 11,000, including more than 3,500 deaths and almost 7,500 injuries.
“This report records yet another rise in the number of civilians hurt or killed. The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable,” Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UNAMA, said in a press release.
While the west can send its own men and women back to safe, comfortable homes, the Afghani locals are forced to deal with this ongoing bloodshed and instability – or to flee as refugees.
Worse, there are reports that ISIS/Daesh are now operating in Afghanistan.
It is also worth remembering that ISIS has its roots in the US effort to ‘regime change’ Iraq and the thousands of Iraqi military officers made unemployed overnight when the US arbitrarily decided to disband the Iraqi armed forces and stop paying Iraqi soldiers’ wages.
Over and over again, western led regime change is the quick and easy part: developing a functional new democratic government and effective nation building is the hard (or impossible) part.
Getting the terrorists sounds like a good idea – unless it ends up a self fulfilling prophecy and stoking a perpetual “war against terror.”
And this is the result after spending over US$600B in Afghanistan (a very conservative financial estimate which does not take into account the long term costs of the conflict).
Perhaps the western hawks still pushing for regime change in Syria should pay attention to recent history.